Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
I heard a commotion outside today while I was working on my NaNo story.
I found a huge colony of crows flying into my yard and the yards around me, raising a ruckus.
The video is shaky, but you can see a little bit of the crows moving about. More importantly, there are a couple of places where you can HEAR them!
They certainly have their opinions…
And yes, I marked my ballot, deposited it on Sunday, and checked today to be sure it is at the elections department. Now I can teach tomorrow and ignore the news until polls close!
This is from about 3 p.m. today. Click on the picture to play the video. Use your browser’s “back” button to return to this page when you are done.
A once-in-three-lifetimes event…
Here are three pictures I took of our planet-watching today. Tom, setting up the telescope, an extreme-zoom view of the planet where the sun is much bigger than the aperture of the scope, and a zoomed out view where the speck is more proportional.
The weather cooperated uncharacteristically, turning “mostly sunny” just as the transit began. Otherwise, the forecast yesterday and today, and for much of the week, is supposed to be non-stop rain. We got lucky, and the plants got a little more light.
There were also two gorgeous eagles flying overhead… here is the youtube link. You can hear how upset the crows were!
which came first:
the chicken or the egg
or the dinosaur
was there one pair
an avian Adam and Eve
nesting in some phanerozoic Eden
blithely multiplying and being fruitful
programmed to survive?
and survive they did
and thrive they did
multiplying to fill
the ends of the earth
a family that touches all continents
but: which came first?
I needed a term for today, and into my head popped a term I am almost certain I had not actually heard: Paleo-Ornithology. I wondered, would the earliest birds be studied by ornithologists or dinosaur hunters? Where is the dividing line?
I have three websites that begin to address my questions:
University of Kansas Ichnology page with descriptions of graduate students who studey ancient birds
A list of books and papers (many in English) on a German-language research site that appears to deal with paleo-ornithology. Clicking on the tabs leads to some descriptions of current and past research – and the researchers.
I’ve been quiet lately. The old year is perhaps better left behind in many ways, though I hope to produce a small missive for the masses before this year, too disappears into the mist.
Today, the third day of the year 2011, I have a puzzle of a birding kind — a small, yellow-drab wren-like bird with a thin beak that has a bright reddish-orange spot on the top of its head. It may be a female. I haven’t managed to take a picture of it, but it likes to visit the medlar tree outside the living room window.
I think it’s a type of warbler. It is clearly not a goldfinch – the beak is not substantial enough.
I can’t find a picture of it online, either, though the Orange-crowned Warbler at birdweb looks closest and the song seems familiar. It would be highly out of season, if it is.
However, I have also seen robins in the last couple of days, also out of season for our area. It has been very chilly this past week, temps in the teens and 20s in Fahrenheit and no precipitation. I wonder if there is a false spring on the way? We have been promised a long, cold — and snowy — winter, but aside from the several days of snow pre-Thanksgiving there hasn’t been anything at this elevation.
Today the children are back at school, I leave in a few minutes to volunteer in a friend’s classroom. Tomorrow, I return to the drudgery. I will keep volunteering on Mondays with my friend to help me remain optimistic and focused. At this point, the program I chose is simply something to be “got through” rather than a joyful experience; there is no reason to expect it to change.
TWO pileated woodpeckers.
Unfortunately, my camera didn’t have batteries in it, and no one else could find a digital camera that worked either. So I will describe them.
Stidkid and I were bringing in some boxes that had been under a tarp in the backyard, when he stopped and looked quizzically at me.
“Can you hear that? What is it?” he asked, cocking his head.
“Either flickers or woodpeckers looking for bugs,” I replied.
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YES! It is that time of year again!
Time to prune, dormant spray, and plan for additions that go in once the spring has warmed enough to support root growth.
Today was VERY cold in the morning. Around eleven, when I went out for the second time to the local school there were only two slick places left on the main road… But now the sun is out (with a few clouds beginning to gather) things are warming up. Almost 12 degrees now, centigrade (that’s about 53 F for us in the United States) — in the sun. Still in the low 40s in the shade. The ice on the rain barrel is more than a half inch thick!
So my task today was to identify the areas that need pruning before I spray. If I had a sprayer I could spray today — no wind and no rain… but as it is, I have to wait anyway. So it looks like I can leave the chestnuts and quince alone this year, and the peach and nectarine need only a little work if any.
However, the medlar needs some modification so it grows parallel to the house and not into the house or the driveway. The viburnum (snowball bush) is out of control.
The apples are pretty good, will prune for airflow and remove water suckers later this week. I am also considering removing the lowest branches on the tall apple tree so it doesn’t interfere with the plum (which grows more horizontally than I expected) — or with walking!
I am not sure what to do about the pear tree… It is grafted and I didn’t get the branches spread when it was young. I have two options I can see, both will mean the loss of future fruit, but would ensure some fruit at some point (so far we had blossoms, but it has never set fruit in 7 years). I can remove the grafts that are too vertical and spread what else remains that is able to be bent. OR I can prune for airflow and remove water sprouts, knowing that eventually the tree will weaken sooner than if an experienced orchardist had taken charge. I am tending toward the latter… It is nice and tall, and has good shape so it would be a pretty, if less productive, corner. For comparison, the second pic is the cherry tree (about the same age) with a couple lower branches that I will take off this year — it is still mostly a whip!
The plum tree is in trouble. Water sprouts have shot up from the dead leader we removed in the autumn, and it needs some serious shape control this year. I can wait a couple more weeks on this, the flowerbuds are starting to form, and if I wait then I can bring the branches indoors and force some pretty blooms. I know that it has a bark beetle of some kind in it, so I need to really work at it this year, or we will lose the tree entirely.
Finally, the lovely magnolia my mother bought for my birthday last year is all but dead. I reached out to look at the buds on one older branch and it came off in my hand, then another, and another. Then I grabbed the leader and pulled. It snapped off, just above a strange lesion in the bark. However, there are some healthy branches coming up from above the graft that may take over. I will take a wait and see approach with this one.
Other things I saw on my walk around the yard were a few daffodils starting to push up, irises that I had forgotten showing green (hoping the freeze didn’t damage them), and the gorgeous rose hips on two of the shrubs. One has orange hips (the flowers are a pale pink), the other red (bright pink flowers… year-round apparently, as you can see in the photo). The rosemary grows bigger and happier every year. I know I need to plant a couple more (or start some from the branches) because they do have a limited life, but I just love it’s healthy green-and-silver foliage!
Now that I am inside, I see the birds are eating the seed I put out. Nuthatches and a bluejay so far, but I am sure there are chickadees not far behind!
I leave you with a picture of the moon, hovering over the tall firs across the street…
Today we woke to snow. No school for one, late start for the other child. My volunteering for the day was scratched, of course.
I didn’t take any pictures today — I think there will be snow again this year. The way the weather has been, I rather expect more like this, more regularly than we used to get.
Let’s face it: the weather has been strange all over the world this year. Some places are generally warmer, others wetter, still others colder than normal. That list is our area — mostly colder and grayer than normal. Established plants have done fine… but newer ones will probably struggle unless we get to warmer, sunnier weather later this year.
And I will struggle. I have really done pretty well so far this winter, with the moods and all, but today there was something about the gray skies, the dimmer house (the skylights were covered with snow), and the cold air that drifted in every time a dog needed in or out. It took me most of the day to really wake up and get moving.
When I did, it wasn’t really that bad. Went outside with the kid who stayed home, did a bit of yard work, walked a dog, came back in and had a nice hot chocolate. Played some of the Wii video game — the Mario Galaxy one, of course.
And it was fine. The kid was happy, we had a good day. But I am in a thoughtful mood now. Keeping enough lights on to help me stay awake takes a lot of power. Playing the video game takes power.
How much of my daily activities are in fact contributing to the changing weather? To Global Warming specifically? What am I teaching my children, sitting inside, with the lights on? Would it be better for me to get rid of the tech toys and instead only use older-fashioned things for leisure activities?
What amount of personal sacrifice is reasonable, what is necessary? Are the necessary sacrifices reasonable?
Meantime, we are having a decent winter. So far, the storms have been small for us this year, but the mountains are building a nice snowpack, and if it doesn’t get warm too fast in the spring, we will have enough water this year.
We had a flock of pine siskins come through and hang around our yard for about thirty minutes. They just left. I think, though I didn’t count (they move so fast) that there were at least several dozen, if not more than a hundred.
Here is a little video Tom took (or will be, when I get it to work with YouTube). I wrote too soon… there was no video and the pics are not clear enough to show the wee birdies. Will have to try again next year when they come through!
It is the first day of the new year — and it was a good reminder of the way the world works. We are home, resting and saving up for the next three days (a very busy three days are planned), while the rest of Gaia’s children go on about their business. The world turns, the days progress, and life goes on.
May the Blessings of Life be yours today and through the year.
It has been a very busy couple of weeks for some reason!First off, congratulations to my Babble-Friends, Featherbee and kristinc, who both had their bundles of joy delivered safely in the last few weeks. Two more bouncing babies added to our happy Babble Family.
Let’s see… my last post was on the 8th… a lot has happened in the almost two weeks since!
The children were at YMCA camp on the Kitsap Peninsula that first week. Tom and I were enjoying a few days’ R&R; at home, no pressures. A few small projects intended, only a couple of which were realized. We watched several movies: Little Miss Sunshine was amusing but definitely not for prudes, and appropriately rated R; a very very bad (does anyone remember So Bad It’s Good Theater?) Sci-Fi flick with Patrick Stewart in a relatively minor role, Lifeforce is worthy of cult status but basically trampy and trashy (not unlike the Rocky Horror Picture Show), rated R but I think it was at the extreme edge of R (lots of nudity); and Mixed Nuts with Steve Martin and many other very funny people, rated PG-13; and finally, Hanky Panky, a PG-rated film from 1982 starring Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, though not technically a comedy the impeccable timing of the stars lent the movie an edge that overcame what could otherwise have been just another Hitchcock knock-off.
Other memorable things from that week:
All too soon the children were home. We stopped to get a new laptop computer for me (I like to be able to work from any comfortable perch in the house, and the elder stidkid needed something he could take to high school with him… he gets the old one); then got a bird for the younger stidkid who had earned it by getting his room reorganized and CLEAN! His name is “Bleu”… (as in bleu cheese)
Last week was the 17th International Bacteriophage Meeting at The Evergreen State College. And I was sick nearly the whole time. A bad allergy attack the Friday before triggered all sorts of sensitivities, so I didn’t go to the informal dinner at our friend’s house before the meeting, nor to the official opening picnic, nor to the big feast… I didn’t even get to hear a single lecture, which disappointed me greatly. I just wanted to rest and sleep most of that week. But Stidkid#1 DID attend, in part to help our friend with little errands and tasks, and mostly to just be there. He rubbed elbows with friends old and new, and by the end of the first day, everyone knew his name! I was able to see my friend in the photo below only briefly, very late on her last day in Olympia. I hope that I will be healthy for the next meeting!
Here he is with our dear friend Dr. Zemphira Alavidze, and new friends Dr. Irina Chkonia and Grace Filby. He has known Zemphira all his life — and is penpals with her grandson in Georgia!
Here he is with one of his heroes, Dr. Revaz Adamia, of the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi.
Once again, with Dr. Hubert Mazure, the great-grandson of Felix d’Herelle who was the first (along with George Eliava) to really develop bacteriophages as a medical treatment.
Here he is, with his grandmother “Stidg’mere” showing her the posters at the meeting.
And last but not least, here he is with two of the Evergreen students he has worked with a little bit… (I am sorry I don’t remember their names). They made one of the posters behind them.
I would love to talk on and on about phage and their history, and the Eliava institute, but it has been done so well by Dr. Elizabeth Kutter and her students and other scientists at Evergreen that I will simply direct you to their website.
And since then… well a nice, wet weekend. We went to “Camlann” — but that is a post for tomorrow.